Sunday, March 01, 2015

Matar Paneer (Dry Curry Version)

Making paneer, a type of fresh "cheese" wildly popular in Northern Indian cuisine and North American Indian restaurants, is simple and straightforward. Directions can be found on the marvelous The Kitchn website. Last-minute cravings for a dinner of paneer can also be satisfied with a quick trip to the supermarket; most will have at least one brand in the specialty cheese section. Above, the all-important first step of pan frying the paneer.

The paneer will brown beautifully if fried over a medium heat.

Before proceeding with paneer in most recipes, be certain you have crisp-edged cubes of cheese. The crusty, browned exterior allows the paneer to be simmered in a multitude of dishes without melting or dissolving.

We love recipes using frozen peas straight from the freezer!

Our version of Matar Paneer forgoes the more typical cream sauce in favor of a "dry" style curry, one without a sauce. Briefly simmered ginger and green chilies contribute to the lighter, fresh flavor of the dish.


Fresh cilantro and a dusting of garam masala finish the dish and add a complexity of flavor. Cafe Drake HRV's recipe below is milder in heat than some may prefer; if you like it hot, add dried red chili powder as well in this final step.

Matar Paneer is a genius combination of vegetables and protein-rich cheese, a complete meal when served with rice or bread. At Cafe Drake HRV we enjoyed ours with cardamom-spiked rice, masoor dal and cabbage salad.
A properly organized Indian meal should boast salty, sweet, spicy and sour elements. We needed a sweet note to our meal of matar paneer, dal and rice. Tamarind Chutney to the rescue! If you keep a jar of tamarind concentrate in the fridge, you can throw this together in 5 minutes, anytime you need a sweet AND sour fix: bring to a boil in a small saucepan 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 2 T. tamarind concentrate. Boil for a couple of minutes on high heat and then stir in 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 t. of cumin powder and about 1/2 t. cayenne pepper, or to your personal tastes. Allow to cool before serving. If you prefer a more tart condiment, stir in a bit more tamarind concentrate once the chutney has cooled slightly.

Like all food Matar Paneer tastes better when shared with friends or family. Jen and Ben contributed a lovely red Loire wine, light but complex enough to stand up to all this subcontinental spice.


MATAR PANEER,  OUR WAY

Begin cutting 1/2 lb. paneer (an Indian fresh cheese) into 1" cubes. Heat 3 T. vegetable oil or ghee in a large non-stick skillet over a medium flame. When the oil is hot - about two minutes - place the paneer cubes in the pan in a single layer. Brown on both sides, cooking until the paneer cubes have a crusty, golden brown exterior. Be careful of popping oil - the paneer will release a bit of water in to the skillet causing oily fireworks!

When the paneer is nicely browned on at least two sides, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon. To the remaining oil in the skillet, add 1 thinly sliced onion and cook until it begins to turn golden. Add 5 T. hot water to the pan and cook for 1 minute. Toss in 10-12 oz. box of frozen petite peas and 1 t. of sugar. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, no more.

Add the fried paneer back to the skillet along with 1-2 T. grated ginger, 1 or 2 sliced hot green chilies and 2 sliced scallions. Cook gently for about 3 minutes. Remove the heat and sprinkle in 1/2 t. garam masala powder and salt to taste. Just before serving garnish with a couple of tablespoons of minced cilantro.

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